Bochy: The Giants Magician

by on October 9, 2014

I have a simple question for SF Giants fans: if Bruce Bochy had been managing the Nationals, how many games would it have taken for Washington to have won? Three? Four? Could a Matt Williams’ led Giants defeated Bochy’s Nationals? Not a chance.

I’m all for crediting the players, particularly in baseball. This is the sport that coined the phrase “push button manager” to describe how Yankees players, rather than manager Casey Stengel, won all those World Series.

But Bruce Bochy is the exception. Unlike Stengel, he has never had a superstar like Mickey Mantle or a roster of future Hall of Famers. He has consistently taken teams with less far beyond expectations.

A Changed Giants Culture

I grew up with the Giants coming in second for five consecutive years (1965-69) and losing in 1965 and 1966 in crushingly close races to my hated hometown Dodgers. The Dodgers were the team that won the close games and the close pennant races. The Giants had stars, but did not do the little things that lead to victory.

The Giants wasted some of the greatest baseball talent ever assembled with failed managers like Alvin Dark and Herman Franks. The Dodgers Walter Alston was no genius, but their front office was vastly superior to the Giants.

So while the Dodgers came to Los Angeles and won World Series titles in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, and 1988, prior to Bochy the Giants only reached the Series in 1962, 1989 and 2002. I loved Dusty Baker, but no way Bochy takes Russ Ortiz out in that tragic World Series game 6 in 2002.

Prior to Bochy the Giants were not winners. In 1954, manager Leo Durocher took an undermanned Giants team to a four game sweep of the 111 game winning Cleveland Indians. When Durocher left the team after the 1955 season, the Giants never had a great, Hall of Fame-level manager until Bochy got the job.

The Tigers Jim Leyland was long considered one of baseball’s best managers. But Bochy took him apart in the 2012 World Series.

Bochy’s teams do the little things that are the difference between victory and defeat. When the Giants made their remarkable two outs, nobody on, top of the ninth comeback against Jordan Zimmerman in Game 2 of the Nationals series, no true Giants fan can say they were totally surprised. Like the 1941 World Series game in which Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Micky Owen dropped a game ending third strike only to then see the Yankees come back to win, such comebacks are endemic to winning teams.

No way Bochy removes Zimmerman and replaces him in that spot with an historically shaky reliever.

Nationals’ fans saw their team lose a deciding game without the Giants getting an extra base hit. The odd plays that led to the National’s ouster commonly break in favor of teams with winning cultures.

I never thought I’d see the day when the Giants were in that category. I had too many years seeing the glory of Mays, McCovey and Marichal lose out to the Dodgers winning ways.

But Bochy has changed the San Francisco Giants culture. Like some of the championship Celtic and Yankee teams, the Giants now have the intangibles to win titles without the best talent.

Bruce Bochy has made this happen. Bochy’s ability to get this far without Matt Cain, Angel Pagan, and Marco Scutaro—all three once deemed indispensable to the team’s playoff success—shows he is more magician than manager.


Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron.




Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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